Eppur si muove

Things I Think About, by Peter Bowditch

Let’s be balanced!

A balanceEvery now and then I receive an email which accuses me of bias against the things which I list at The Millenium Project and declare I don’t like, to which I can only answer “Guilty, your honour”. The funny ones are those which suggest that I should show some balance by presenting the views of the other side. This is funny for two reasons. The first is that I feel no need to provide a forum at my expense for the charlatans, liars and other disgusting people who are the targets of the site. If they want to have their say, let them get web sites of their own. That brings us to the second funny point, which is that to be there they have to already have a web site of their own. You can see why I have a good laugh every time someone tells me that I should present the other side and by this statement shows that they are incapable of independent thought, otherwise they would have noticed the thousand sites listed there. Still, I have come to expect somewhat less than an adequate capacity for critical (or sometimes any) thought from the supporters of the sort of sites that make up the Millenium Project lists.

I was reminded of this over a few weeks in 2004 when I was chasing publicity for the Australian Council Against Health Fraud’s conference. It was promoted to journalists associated with major news outlets, many of them having titles which suggested that they had some responsibility for health information appearing in their publication or on their radio or television station or network. Several commented that the conference was not really balanced and that I should have representatives of the quackery industry there to present their views. One even suggested two suitable people – one was an anti-vaccination doctor and the other runs a department of alternative medicine at a real university and teaches homeopathy as if it is a science. I was also told by someone that nobody uses the term “alternative medicine” any more – it is “complementary” or “integrative”.

Much of this nonsense can be put down to the combination of postmodernism and political correctness which is rotting the intellectual values of university humanities departments these days, the departments which contain the schools of journalism. Every point of view has equal value and it is impolite to challenge anyone, so every media outlet seems to want to outdo the others in fairness and presenting both sides. This is ridiculous. News is news and truth is truth. The strange thing is that this false sense of fairness only seems to extend to scientific matters (and perhaps history, where Holocaust deniers are treated with cautious politeness). If I was running a seminar on financial planning or the legal aspects of property development nobody would expect me to give any time or space to timeshare slammers or peddlers of gambling schemes, but try to teach children about evolution or their parents about the superiority of medicine over witchcraft and there are cries everywhere about unfairness. Tragic.

Then there is the really scary stuff. Several of the “journalists” criticised me for rejecting homeopathy and being close-minded about it. Remember that these people write supposedly factual, researched stories for reputable media outlets. Be afraid.

Balance

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